In the decade since the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Action (IRPTA) significant efforts have been made to improve the security clearance process. But recent incidents involving, leaks, breaches and criminal action on the part of cleared professionals (Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and Aaron Alexis) signal the need for more improvements, according to the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an association representing the intelligence and national security communities.
INSA unveiled a new white paper focusing on security clearance reform this week. “Leveraging Emerging Technologies in the Security Clearance Process” focuses on continuous evaluation and the need to improve the process of conducting periodic investigations.
At a panel co-sponsored by NextGen and underwritten by Northrop Grumman, panelists from government, the commercial sector and the Hill highlighted the significant momentum pushing reform forward. Legislation is already moving forward, with recommendations written into the National Defense Authorization Act, as well as the passing of the OPM IG Act.
“We have an opportunity to make changes in a process that has really befuddled some of us for some years,” said Kathy Pherson, Vice Chair of the Security Reform Policy Council at INSA. “There is a compelling need.”
Kathy cautioned against those who say the answer is simply to reduce the number of clearances. She called that kind of thinking ‘taking the eye off of the ball.’ Instead, she noted that we should be “proud, as a nation, that we have five million people who are helping to defend the nation’s classified information.” The more the focus is on cutting personnel, the more contractors, in particular, are forced to begin playing games in the acquisition process, to keep cleared personnel available for contracts, she noted.
The INSA white paper made ten specific recommendations, the majority of which focus on leveraging technological advancements as well as improving the periodic reinvestigation (PR) process:
1. Incorporate an enhanced PR into the security clearance process.
2. Move to an online clearance information reporting application.
3. Make use of internal agency databases
4. Use an enhanced PR to target high-risk cleared population
5. Leverage an enhanced PR as a deterrent and accountability booster.
6. Partner with the insider threat and counterintelligence efforts.
7. Identify a proof of concept population
8. Set expectations with a cost-benefit analysis, metrics, and technology standards.
9. Start early to train investigators and adjudicators to be prepared for new ways of doing business.
10. Ensure civil liberties and privacy offices and general counsel representatives are active participants in CME (Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation) planning.
In a series of articles, we’ll unpack the recommendations of the INSA white paper, as well as provide more insight into what CME will mean for cleared professionals.